PopExcavators

Making the once known known again.

He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)

The Crystals

When I was a kid my grandmother was a sales rep for Princess House, a company that specialized in selling crystal.  On Saturday afternoons she often hosted parties to sell items to her friends.  I remember being rushed out of her living room on several occasions so my grandmother’s guests could swoon over plates, champagne flutes and figurines shaped like Eeyore.  It was made clear early on that kids were not allowed within arm’s reach of anything made of crystal.  Period.  This was reiterated when I received an elephant shaped figurine as a gift, only to have it snatched from my hands and placed in a cabinet out of my reach.   Crystal was just too beautiful and fragile to risk being broken.

In 1960, a girl group called The Crystals was formed and they, like my grandmother’s crystal, had an image that was too beautiful to be broken.  Dressed in silk dresses and high heeled shoes, they represented society’s perception of femininity.  Perhaps producer Phil Spector had this in mind when he had The Crystals record what is, in my opinion, the second most haunting song in pop music history.

“He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” was written in 1962 by married songwriting partners Carole King and Gerry Goffin.  King and Goffin discovered that their live-in babysitter, singer Little Eva, was being beaten by her boyfriend.  When confronted about the abuse, Little Eva defended her boyfriend using the words that would become the song’s title.

Phil Spector gave the song to the Crystals, who were signed to his record label at the time.  The group was fresh off the  success of two radio hits, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown,” but “He Hit Me” would not have the same success.  Banned by many radio stations amid complaints that it endorsed violence against women, Spector pulled the single just as it was beginning to chart.

The interesting thing about this song is that King and Goffin keep an objective stance throughout.  When I first heard it, I was certain that by the end of the song the protagonist would leave her boyfriend.  I thought that there was a blatant lesson I was supposed to learn by listening.  I discovered I was wrong on both counts.  The writers merely tell the story of a girl who is content in an abusive relationship.  She doesn’t change her mind.  She doesn’t think she deserves better.  She is content.  The way Spector arranged the song, it seems that her friends singing backup vocals are content with the abuse as well.

I chose this song to kick off PopExcavators because I like the approach that King, Goffin and Spector took.  They simply presented the information.  I believe that they wanted to affect change in their audience but they let their audience decide what that change was supposed to look like.  I want to do the same thing with PopExcavators.  You have the information.  Let me know what change looks like to you.

Ryan Chavez

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68 comments on “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)

  1. Great blog. Love this!

  2. Nicole
    June 4, 2012

    It’s interesting that the song wasn’t received well. In the decade prior it was still socially acceptable for men to “spank” their wives. On “I Love Lucy” Ricky Ricardo spanked Lucy as a form of discipline and everyone laughed. Hitting your wife with a switch/stick was okay..she was at the time only a 1/2 step above children, one step above slave. The reception of this song I would guess was a mark of the shift in the view of abuse and women in American Society that was taking place in the 60’s. Five years earlier it may have been received differently. It may have been a hit.

    However, even though it wasn’t well received publicly I am certain a TON of women could and still do identify with the song. I don’t know one friend that has not suffered through some type of (verbal, mental, emotional or physical abuse) and endured it a little too long. It’s so tricky… When I first listened to the song I was like how is this possible. Then I had to look at myself…my past relationships…and immediately saw how easy it is to get to the place where it “feels” like a kiss. Abuse is the great deceiver. For abuse to work it first has to deceive you, dismantle something to prime the abused and then it goes to work.

    • PopExcavators
      June 4, 2012

      I remember watching “I Love Lucy” and being shocked when Ricky put Lucy over his lap. Like you said, it’s interesting to think about how “He Hit Me” would have been received 10 years earlier….

      Thanks for your comment and your openness. I know that many people will be able to relate.

  3. ksparq
    June 4, 2012

    These kind of songs make me think of the old classic bond movies. A possible 007 remix: “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Slap)” Only James, James Bond can get away with the occasional bitch-slap. Connery was the master, although I would never put it into practice!

  4. Cole Rae
    June 4, 2012

    My favorite line from this post is “Crystal was just too beautiful and fragile to risk being broken.” What happens often in relationships is that people who are broken, cracked, shattered enter into them and break, crack and out of their brokenness shatter others. Just like your mother knew you were not mature enough to handle the crystal elephant without causing damage many of us are simply not in the right place to handle relationships without doing harm. It takes a level of maturity emotionally, spiritually and mentally to be able to handle another person with care.

    • Very true. Now I’d be free to play with that elephant as much as I want. Makes me wonder how long Little Eva stayed in that relationship….

    • EMD
      June 4, 2012

      Interesting point!

  5. Laura Blaylock
    June 4, 2012

    Dig it!! You’re a great writer. Looking forward to more of these.

  6. Austin McLaurine
    June 4, 2012

    Interesting read; I’ll be looking forward to future articles!

  7. Julie Champion
    June 4, 2012

    This is so great, RC! Excited that all your hard work is going to impact people. This looks great and I’m excited to keep reading!!

  8. Henriette
    June 4, 2012

    Impressive. I like how you draw the reader in with your childhood experience with crystal and tie it into the Crystals. Interesting take on the song, I can certainly empathize with both schools of thought. On the one hand I wouldn’t want my daughter to listen to this song, on the other I can understand that this song portrays a reality that many women could/can identify with.

    I can see you are ever expanding your expertise…teacher, songwriter, marathon runner and writer. Did I miss anything? 🙂

    • Ha! I can juggle too.

      Thanks for your feedback regarding the song. Why wouldn’t you want your daughter to listen to it?

      • Henriette
        June 4, 2012

        I wouldn’t want her to have any fuel to think that it is EVER acceptable for a man to hit her, even if it felt like a kiss. We have a enough gray area in the world, and somethings should be black and white.

  9. Lisa Lingani
    June 4, 2012

    I truly enjoyed your blog Ryan… I didnt know the origins of this song..but it never occurred to me to be a song of domestic violence.. keep blogging and sharing a piece of your world..

  10. Pam J
    June 4, 2012

    Isn’t it ironic that Phil Spector gave the Crystals a song that so many deemed inappropriate because of violance against women?? Love the site Ryan…..I will be sure Kevin sees it!

  11. Trevor Honeycutt
    June 4, 2012

    Wonderful site RC! I’m really looking forward to the gems that you dig up!

    Regarding “He Hit Me”; what a commentary on relational dysfunction!!

    She’s unfaithful and confesses it to him, he hits her, and she’s encouraged bcs his strike means to her that he has feelings for her (otherwise, her cheating wouldn’t have upset him). What a mess.

    There’s certainly more here that can be exposed than the man’s inappropriate hitting. I would hope that the woman’s adultery would be exposed as wickedness as well. Plus the reality that returning evil for evil will never create something wonderful.

    • You know, I was so focused on the physical abuse that I looked right over the fact that the woman was unfaithful. Great observations Trevor.

    • Nicole Yancey
      June 4, 2012

      Wow Trevor!!! I completely missed that. I was so caught up in the fact that she said the hit felt like a kiss I missed the adultery piece. I will return to comment after I listen to it again.

  12. Red
    June 4, 2012

    This was a great, thought provoking read Ryan! Looking forward to more!

  13. EMD
    June 4, 2012

    Brilliant analysis RC! We have to remember that violence against women was socially accpetable for many years. The second wave women’s rights movement in the ’60’s is pretty much when people started thinking that beating women was kind of a bad idea. Strangely though in certain genres of music these lyrics with a kickin 808 behind it would be a hot song!

  14. Nadia
    June 4, 2012

    He must have slapped her senseless if it felt like a kiss! She resorted to the old trick of making someone jealous in order to find out if he cares??? The song shows that neither of them knew how to love or how they should be loved. Fifty years later, the manipulation and violence continues for some people. If he or she can’t be trusted, walk away. If he or she is violent call the police and never look back!

    • PopExcavators
      June 4, 2012

      So it all comes back to identity.

      • Nadia
        June 4, 2012

        It is a large part of it. They say you can’t help who you fall in love with, but something has to be missing within that person’s own sense of self worth that would enable someone to accept a situation that is so dysfunctional.

    • Nicole Yancey
      June 4, 2012

      That’s it Nadia!! That’s it.The shelf life of “game” is 60 to 90 days. Most people show enough of their true selves rather quickly. Forget a red flag there is usually a ticker tape parade that one must ignore that lands them in a pool of dysfunction. Unfortunately, it is often hard for people to see themselves after they have been victimized. It becomes about the other person and their wrong doing so much so we cannot see our part. This is in NO way excusing abuse. But I’ve seen numerous women endure emotionally abusive situations just to end up in the same situation again and again. Its human nature. It’s the reason why divorce rates continue to climb in the second and third marriages. People that feel victimized or wronged often don’t look inward for the change that is need to heal…and the cycle continues. It may look different in the next relationship, the last guy/girl was a habitual liar and cheater and the next one is verbally abusive and the next one is emotionally abusive and then the next one has a serious fear of commitment but it is all dysfunction. Same pattern..just cut a little differently.

  15. Hey bro, this song reminds me of all the years I spent in the evangelical system. I’d leave a Sunday service and when someone would ask me how ‘church’ was, I’d say this:

    “It was great. (enter preacher’s name) really brought it today. I was so ‘convicted’. There was a ‘sadistic’ side of my religious flesh that regular craved to be ‘convicted’ of my sin. It somehow felt good to hear how ‘bad’ I was. I would get ‘hit’, and it felt like a kiss. So glad those days are over:)

  16. Michelle
    June 5, 2012

    Ryan, did you write this! It is awesome! “You have the information. Let me know what change looks like to you.” WOW! Very, very well written!

    • PopExcavators
      June 5, 2012

      Haha thanks Mitchy. What did you think of the song? What are you feeling after listening to it?

  17. Michelle
    June 5, 2012

    I guess they are trying to send a message with this song, but I ‘aint gettin’ it. It sounds like this song is celebrating abuse! “Yaaay! Tyrone just knocked me in my head and he LUBS meeeh!!! Abuse = LOVE BABY!” I do not like this song. This song makes me feel depressed and confused. I want to go throw up now. 🙂

    • PopExcavators
      June 5, 2012

      Wow how do you really feel Mitchy? haha… Art is supposed to invoke emotion so I guess Goffin and King were successful!

  18. Valente' Rodriguiz
    June 5, 2012

    wow never heard this song before I must admit the subject matter wouldnt fly in this day in age ah the good ol days when five across the lip was permitted lol but seriously this goes right to the top of rhianna’s playlist im sure , I wonder if Prince wanted her extra time and her xxxxx Kiss if he knew what her kiss was ! so many different ways to view this indeed

    • PopExcavators
      June 6, 2012

      Thanks Valente’. Interesting to think what the reaction would be if a group released this today.

      • katynels
        June 11, 2012

        It actually reminds me of that Rhianna Eminem collaboration. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  19. Nadia
    June 5, 2012

    Just as Jamal may have felt unworthy of God’s grace because he felt the need to be always under conviction, perhaps Little Eva (and many others) did not feel she was worthy to receive a greater and true Love.. where each one is cherished, respected and cared for because they are loved.

  20. Levi
    June 6, 2012

    Amazing new blog! Can’t wait to see what’s next.

    • PopExcavators
      June 6, 2012

      Thanks for reading Levi. What are your thoughts on the song? As a man who is not in an abusive relationship what feelings do you have after listening?

      • Levi
        June 6, 2012

        The effect of the writers objectivity and the unresolved tension of the relationship causes me to reflect on the nature of my own relationships. Everyone knows upon hearing this how they are “supposed” to feel, but I think if you are honest the writing/performance of the song puts you in an uncomfortable position. You experience what it must have been like for King and Goffin when they confronted Little Eva. Little Eva doesn’t cry for help confirming your convictions that this relationship must end, rather she pleads for mercy. Your heart breaks as you realize Little Eva doesn’t know what love is. Rather than inspire you to rise up against the oppressor you feel all of the weight and emptiness of someone who has never truly been shown love.

      • PopExcavators
        June 7, 2012

        Beautiful observations man. Thanks for your honesty.

  21. Laurie Cooper
    June 6, 2012

    Excellent blog entry Ryan. Who knew such a cool cat had as many layers as you?! Hope you’re doing well and enjoying your summer. I look forward to reading more.

  22. Ellie Kuykendall
    June 6, 2012

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading more of yours. Ellie http://www.themuseisworking.com

  23. Nick Stevens
    June 6, 2012

    RC, thanks for bringing your gifts to the world like this! It’s going to be fun.

    The attachment we have to significant others is extremely powerful. Throughout history, people of all kinds — wives, children, men — have endured what others outside of their experiences would consider preposterous because of their since of attachment to someone. We’re all looking for attention from those we deem significant. The sadness of it is that we don’t always know how to get that attention in healthy ways. Honestly many of us don’t, but there are only a few that get great recognition like the characters in the song.

    I think many people seek Christ in the same way. We often do something preposterous to see if our God really cares. He’s calling us to something different. To live in the security of his love for us and come to him in vulnerability and trust in who he is…

    • PopExcavators
      June 6, 2012

      I love it. Thanks Nicky. Looking forward to this journey with you.

  24. Andy
    June 6, 2012

    Good writing on an interesting subject. You’ve made some excellent observations and connections to the music!

    Congrats on the Blog!! Keep us posted!

    -Adf

    • PopExcavators
      June 6, 2012

      Thanks Andy! I’ll keep you posted so much you won’t be able to escape haha.

  25. Laura Braam
    June 7, 2012

    Beautifully written, RC. No surprise there.

  26. Sarah Diaz
    June 9, 2012

    The song makes me sad. It is strange to take something so disfunctional and make it sound like it is okay. We think our society has changed, mabye it just isn’t as hidden as it once was.

    • PopExcavators
      June 9, 2012

      Thanks for your comments. Would you let your children (if you have any) listen to the song?

    • Michele
      June 10, 2012

      Very good point Sarah! I think we have a romanticized view of the history of American society. For instance, divorce rates have skyrocketed in the past few decades but we often take that as an indication that respect for marriage has declined and people do not understand commitment. In the minds of many marriages were great but due to moral decline they are crumbling. Divorce is not new. Society has not changed. Homosexuality, divorce, rape, substance abuse, theft, religious factions, physical abuse, envy, murder, strife have all been around since long before Christ. I think once we open our eyes to that fact maybe real change will come.

  27. MsJazZY
    June 11, 2012

    I love your site…I enjoyed reading your thoughts and thanks for bringing old school ways to new schools attention. Hopefully, they will see the errors and change their thinking. What is sad about the young lady in the song is she may have been reliving her mothers life. She may have witness moments between her parents that followed with a “I’m sorry” kiss…leading her to believe not only it’s alright for women to be swung on…but it’s also a form of love. Learned behavior is a dangerous thing. Keep up the great work, I appreciate it.~

    • PopExcavators
      June 11, 2012

      I appreciate you checking out the site more than you know. Abuse is definitely a generational pattern in many families. It breaks my heart that kids are growing up thinking they’re not created for more than that.

  28. Dee
    June 13, 2012

    This is a solid post. Has “Mad Men” incorporated this song yet into an episode? It wouldn’t surprise me if they work it in at some point. I agree with you that it’s pretty daring (and ultimately more interesting?) when an artistic portrayal of unpleasantness doesn’t try to fix it. There’s no hero here, just a sad picture of an all-too-real person. Thanks for this; I’m looking forward to more of your insights!

    • PopExcavators
      June 13, 2012

      Mad Men used it earlier this season actually. Thanks for checking us out!

  29. Celeste
    June 16, 2012

    RC! Congratulations on your blog. I love how you have put the details of the song here and have let your audience also decide how they feel then post their comments. As with most controversies we can only judge through the lenses of our own experiences.

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This entry was posted on June 3, 2012 by in Phonograph and tagged , , , , , , .
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